A new Heritage Minute released by Historica Canada follows the story of Chanie (Charlie) Wenjack, a twelve-year-old boy who passed away escaping from a residential school in Northern Ontario, and the namesake of Trent University’s Wenjack Theatre.
The premiere of the Heritage Minute coincides with National Aboriginal Day, and shines a light on Canada’s dark history of residential schools.
“Yesterday was a day of celebration for Indigenous communities across Canada. It also presents an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to reflect on the historical relationship between First Peoples and Canada,” said Adam Hopkins, director of the First People’s House of Learning at Trent University. “Stories like Chanie’s, were all too common. But by acknowledging and honouring Chanie, and stories like his, we can make meaningful strides towards reconciliation."
In 1973, when construction began on Otonabee College at Trent, a group of student leaders from the now Indigenous Studies department lobbied for the college to be named in Chanie’s honour. The students saw this dedication as an opportunity for Trent to strengthen its Indigenous Studies program, and establish itself as a force for change, hope, and a positive educational experience. The campaign spearheaded by student leaders led to the memorialization of Charlie through the naming of Trent’s largest lecture hall as the Chanie Wenjack Theatre.
The script for the Heritage Minute was written by Joseph Boyden, who received an honorary degree from Trent in 2014, and the historical advisor was professor emeritus, Dr. John Milloy.